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Apprentice star Alexa Tilley on business experience for young people

Young people are the future of the UK business world, reminds Alexa Tilley. The Capgemini management consultant and former Apprentice contestant considers it vital to encourage today's youth to obtain practical knowledge of business. In this article, Alexa introduces the exciting business experience opportunities available.

The future's bright?

The current situation in the UK economy shows levels of consumer debt to be particularly high, as well as first-time buyers struggling to get their foot onto the property ladder. We are also seeing manufacturing jobs move increasingly overseas and many business functions being outsourced abroad.

In order to ensure a bright future for British business we need to develop and sustain a competitive advantage, which can be best achieved by bringing up the next generation of highly-skilled and creative business minds. This will only happen if we are able to encourage young people to explore the business world and become enthusiastic about being entrepreneurial.

Subjects taught in schools and universities like Business Studies and Economics help to build interest, but nothing can beat having a 'hands on' experience of real business. More and more schools are adopting work experience programmes designed to offer just this.

Quote�Work experience makes the difference on CVs�End Quote

It is real-life work experience which is becoming a real differentiating factor on young people's CVs today, when they apply for places at higher education colleges/ universities and also their first job post-education.

Young Enterprise

Founded in 1963, UK-registered charity Young Enterprise runs a range of business and enterprise education programmes for more than 280,000 young people each year through government support, 3000+ businesses and 11,500+ volunteers. Students are offered the opportunity to run a real company and learn about aspects of business. Volunteers are on hand to give advice.

I took part in Young Enterprise whilst studying at school. It gave me an excellent grounding in business principles and was also a very useful talking point in later job interviews.

I am involved with the scheme again now, as a volunteer, and recently saw the enthusiasm and impressive work of award winners at the Young Enterprise London North Company Presentations Evening. I also participated as a judge at the Chace Community School's Business Challenge Day, where again the standard was high.

The Prince's Trust

The Prince's Trust is another example of an organisation that helps to encourage young people into business. This UK charity helps helps 14-30 year olds realise their potential and transform their lives through practical support including training, mentoring and financial assistance. The Prince's Trust is aimed at helping young people who've struggled at school, been in care, been in trouble with the law or are long-term unemployed.

As with Young Enterprise, the impact on helping to build a better-motivated, educated and enterprising workforce is significant. Young people are encouraged to see their business ideas through to realisation. These schemes also make a real difference to the existing lives and future potential of the young people who get involved.

The Apprentice

Whatever your view about the latest series of The Apprentice, it does raise the profile of business practise and has certainly got debates raging about whether the business tasks shown on the programme are a true indication of business today or not, as well as whether you agree with Sir Alan Sugar's straight-talking mode of management!

The show has got millions of people across the country talking business - and this seems to extend across all age groups. I recently received an email from ten year old Josh, saying that he was not allowed to stay up to watch The Apprentice, but that his mum always taped it for him, so that he wouldn't miss an episode!

Hopefully, the increasing popularity of programmes like The Apprentice and Dragon's Den are playing their part in inspiring young people to explore the business world in later life.

What next?

Taking on a placement student to work on a specific project can help businesses succeed and try things they might otherwise have been unable to do. Find out more about the STEP programme.

Find out more about Alexa Tilley by visiting her website.

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